“Dreams That Money Can Buy
is a 1947 American experimental feature color film written, produced, and directed by surrealist artist and dada film-theorist Hans Richter.”
or Dadaism is a cultural movement that began in Zurich, Switzerland, during World War I and peaked from 1916 to 1922. The movement primarily involved visual arts, literature—poetry, art manifestoes, art theory—theatre, and graphic design, and concentrated its anti-war politics through a rejection of the prevailing standards in art through anti-art cultural works. Its purpose was to ridicule what its participants considered to be the meaninglessness of the modern world.
[Italics mine.] In addition to being anti-war, dada was also anti-bourgeois and anarchist in nature.
“Dada activities included public gatherings, demonstrations, and publication of art/literary journals; passionate coverage of art, politics, and culture were topics often discussed in a variety of media. The movement influenced later styles like the avant-garde and downtown music movements, and groups including surrealism, Nouveau réalisme, pop art, Fluxus and punk rock.”
And this quote from the reviews on IMDb
“Proclaimed by David Lynch as his favourite film (He pinched the title ‘Ruth Roses and Revolvers’ from it), it is not an easy watch and sadly is probably destined to always be for the cognoscenti [knowledgeable people]. This is a film—not a movie—and whilst not completely successful as a piece of art, it pushes the boundary of film and narrative.”
My take: If Dada is about the purposeless sterility of modern life, this film is about how people shut down and armor themselves in order to survive in it—and then turn to just about anyone or anything in the desperate attempt to wake up, open back up, and to actually feel something.
The opening sequence (with the “complicated lease”): a delicious satire ridiculing money, contract law, and the cigar-sucking paper shufflers (aka lawyers) who wallow in all of it. From here, the film gets very moody indeed.
The sensuality that a tiny little rabbit of a clerk cannot find while hiding from life behind his bank ledgers. Neither can he find it in his armor-plated wife, and he can only see it in his art clippings as through a window into another world. You can’t win if you don’t play, so go ahead and roll the dice…
The Girl with the Prefabricated Heart:
A groupie who has taken her need for connectedness to extremes is certain that she will come alive if she can just find the right group to join—or if she joins enough of them. To validate herself, she wants to sign up everyone else, as well. Instead of a dream of what her life could be, she gets a vision of what her life has become:
“Oh Venus was born out of sea-foam
Oh Venus was born out of brine
But the goddess today
If she is grade A
Is assembled upon the assembly line
(How divine! Rise and shine! Upon the assembly line!)”
Yep, the whole film is a critique of consumerism and the sterility of modern civilization. To be more specific, though, this bit is a critique of modern woman, where the eternal solipsism intersects with a yawning void that can never be filled, and a ravening hunger that can never be satisfied.
(“Now Julie was born as it’s proper
Her every proportion was planned
She was poured from a mold
Exquisite and cold
And she grew up untouched by human hands
[Oh how grand! See her stand! Untouched by human hands!]”)
(“Wheels started turning inside her head
So from his ardent arms she fled!
Girls of wax can’t use devotion
They might melt if they felt an emotion…”)
Oh well, I Guess You’ll Do.
Ruth, Roses and Revolvers:
The cynical, status conscious, armor-plated wife from Desire
is back for her own session. In Desire
we saw a character handling dice; here we are told outright that living fully means taking risks. And what’s at risk? A small group attend a workshop held in a small theater, where they are invited to model the gestures, postures, and attitudes of the model they see on screen. Thus the group become participants in a venue that is usually for spectators. And because of the way that emotions and “body language” are linked, the exercise will cause them to feel something. Will our participants risk joining in the silliness, and feeling an emotion? Had this film been made a few decades later, they could have simply substituted an audience participation showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
A sap gets sapped over the head with a sap, which leaves things spinning a bit. When he comes to, “Funny stuff, huh? Well I ain’t a sap, see?! Stick ’em up! Da fix is in, so you better hand it over if ya know what’s good for yeh, see? I’ll show ya who’s da sap, see? I got yer sap, right here!” They might have called this transitional bit Interlude with a closet.
Wire mobiles that dance on the air, and wire sculptures that perform, brought to you by a young girl and the blind old man she guides. The two people most likely to be ignored have the most to offer our dream merchant, especially after his bump on the head.
What would happen if you were suddenly to turn blue?
Would your friends all get up and walk away from you?
Kermit used to sing “It’s not easy being green.”
It’s much tougher being blue in this peculiar scene.
This really sucks, suddenly turning blue!
It’s all gone, everything I once knew.
People shout in anger; “up” is upside down.
I don’t know where I’m going, my head is turned around.
Might as well start over, might as well start new.
What choice is there, when you suddenly turn blue?
Climb into a window, imagine what I see?
A woman in her hammock, as peaceful as can be!
She points me to a seat, and offers me a drink,
Cherries and a knife, where I watch myself blink.
This is wrong, there is blood upon the floor.
I have no choice, I must go through the door.
All the old memories, none of them are true.
Everything has changed, now that I’ve turned blue.
Escaping out the window, but I’m heading for a fall.
Some pretty swirling colors, I’m afraid that is all…